FOUNDATIONS FOR PEACE

The weekly message delivered at St. Paul's Lutheran Church - New Ulm, MN

The Gift that Never Stops Giving

Category: 53 - James,Pastor Sutton's Sermons,Season of Pentecost — admin at 10:17 am on Monday, September 10, 2012

James 1:17-25
September 8-10, 2012
15th Weekend after Pentecost
Pastor Don Sutton

James 1:17-25
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all he created. 19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

Introduction
As I reflected on James 1:17-25 the slogan kept rolling around in my mind: “The Gift that Keeps on Giving.” I knew I heard this before, but I couldn’t recall to what it was in relation. Was it diamonds? Hallmark cards? So I went on line and found this slogan to refer to many different things from education to memorization to communication to charitable donation. Today we focus on The Gift That Keeps On Giving… … us blessings from God … and … God blessings from us.

… giving us blessings from God
A)
James is writing to Jewish Christians who are scattered throughout the then-known world. Being a Christian in a predominantly pagan world was not easy. Even being a Jewish Christian among Jewish unbelievers wasn’t easy. There was temptation, tribulation and persecution. So James encourages Christians to persevere in trouble, to not blame God for temptation, and to trust that God does what is good.

B) Then in v. 17 he wrote, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James makes several points. One is that God’s giving is always good – the right way, the right time, etc. God, who rules the sun, moon and stars, is not fickle, showering with his blessings one day and withholding them the next. Another point is that every blessing comes from God – life, talents, possessions, family, relationships, etc.. The third point is that the gifts that God gives are good and appropriate. When he blesses us with a certain standard of living, he knows what he is doing. When he sends or allows a trial in life, he has a good and loving reason for it. But when he does, he will also give us help through it and then will deliver us from it.

C) With this in mind, James talks about the gift that keeps on giving – “…He chose to give us birth through the word of truth…” This birth is the gift of faith. This is, as Jesus said in John 3, “being born again of water and
the Spirit.”

1) We needed God to give us this because as we were physically born we were spiritually dead in sin and destined to hell. We were powerless to please God, love God, or live for God. We couldn’t choose to have God in our lives. Had not God chosen us and given us birth, we would be eternally lost.

2) But God did choose us – out of undeserved love, in eternity, in view of Christ – to be his. God saw to it that we would be baptized and brought to faith, or hear his word and be converted to faith, by the power of the Holy
Spirit. James emphasized that God did this so that “… that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” In the Old Testament “first-fruits” were to be the first and the best offerings, the prized products of the herd, harvest or hard work. Through faith God has made you to be more precious to him than all the money, diamonds, gold, oil, or land in the world. Every day this is the way God values you. Every day this is the reason behind God’s providing, protecting and working in, for and through you. Doesn’t this humble you? But at the same time, doesn’t it give you a godly sense of value in a society that often doesn’t value people if they aren’t beautiful, athletic, highly intelligent, rich, powerful, or successful? God has given us a great gift in our faith – a gift that keeps on giving.

3) Through faith every day God gives you the forgiveness Christ won with his life, death and resurrection . Through your faith God dresses you in the holiness of Jesus. Through your faith God gives you joy in your salvation, hope for today, tomorrow and forever, peace that passes understanding, power to live for him, and the promise of eternal life. Faith is a gift that keeps on giving as through it God daily gives us many blessings.

So God encourages Jewish Christians and us, “Don’t be tempted to think I don’t care about you. Don’t let the devil dupe you into giving up your faith. Endure trials trusting that I am a good Giver, giving good gifts, among them which is faith – the gift that keeps on giving many blessings of my grace.”

But at the same time God doesn’t want us Christians to be tempted to think that because through faith we have God’s blessing, it doesn’t matter whether we are a blessing to God.

… God blessings from us.
A) Isn’t this a real temptation? The devil, if he can’t get us to despair, will tempt us, “Hey Christian, aren’t you saved through faith in Jesus? Don’t you have the forgiveness of sins? Don’t you have the holiness of Jesus? Doesn’t God promise you eternal life through faith in Jesus? Then don’t you have freedom to live out your urges and desires? Come on, let’s indulge you a bit. You’ve got to love yourself more and God, a little less.” The devil iis appealing to your sinful nature. He wants to addict you to sin that kills your faith in Jesus.

B) Therefore, our loving God gives Jewish Christians and us believers today warnings and encouragements so that our faith is a gift that keeps on giving blessings to God from us.

1) The first encouragement is this: “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent…” God is saying, “The things that go against my commandments, the things that the devil tempts you with and your sinful nature wants so badly, get rid of them. They may be available. They may be desirable. They may be popular. But don’t pursue them. Don’t do them.”

God mentions particular sins – “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” Anger can embitter, ruin relationships, rob of joy and destroy faith. But the love of God, the forgiveness of God, the power of God and the guidance of God enable us to get rid of anger.

Being a good listener can help us to avoid anger. Listening shows love. But listening and processing what others say rather than quickly responding or becoming angry, can help us to deal with people in a more godly way. We won’t jump to faulty conclusions – that someone is mad at us when really they are upset with someone or something else; that what was said as a compliment is being mistakenly taken as a cut; that the upset being expressed is a cry for help. Where you see sinful anger and failure to listen in your life, exercise your faith in Jesus. Cut sin off. Turn to your Savior for the forgiveness that is yours in him. Let your faith keep on giving blessings to God.

2) God’s second encouragement to keep us from thinking that God’s grace gives us license to sin is: “Keep hearing and taking to heart God’s word.” When James says, “Be quick to listen…” he’s not just talking about listening to one another but also listening to God. This is obvious when he wrote, “Don’t merely listen to the word …” From God’s perspective it’s a given that believers will hear his word and take it to heart – “humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” Without the power of the Holy Spirit, we cannot accept God’s Word. But God has given us believers to do so. He says, “Use it.”
Are we quick to listen to God? When is the last time you worshiped? The last time you read your Bible? When you read or heard the word, did you accept it, thinking, “This is God’s word. This is good. This I believe. This I want to apply to my life?” If not, why not? Is it because you know better? Does your will take’s precedence over his? If so, you are the god in your life and you’re squaring off against God – a match in the end you will lose eternally.

Faith is a gift that keeps on giving as it listens to God’s word that shows us our sin and creates Godly sorrow. But faith also latches on to the gospel as it says, “God loves you. Jesus lived perfectly for you. Jesus suffered and died for your sin. God forgives your every sin. You are saved.” Faith saves us as it grabs hold of Jesus for salvation.

3)The last encouragement God gives is that we not only hear God’s word and take it to heart through faith, honoring and blessing God, faith keeps on giving glory to God as we then apply God’s word to our lives and live it.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.”

Imagine getting up in the morning and you look in the mirror. Your hair is messy. You have sleepers in your eyes and dried saliva on your face. Your whiskers have grown or your make-up is gone. You have crud on your teeth. You see it, but go eat breakfast. You get dressed. You look in the mirror. You see your zipper’s down, your shirt or blouse isn’t buttoned and has some bad wrinkles. But out the door you go.

This is the way God’s people are when they hear his word but don’t do it. The result is that they rob God of glory that comes from their living for God. They rob themselves of the joy and peace that come with letting faith live and love, following God’s law. But the Christian who responds in faith to God’s love and follows God’s law, is blessed with the freedom to have joy in following Jesus and the peace of conscience that comes with doing his will. As we enjoy this freedom, our faith gives glory to God. We bless him.

In our faith God has given us a great gift, a gift that keeps on giving – love, forgiveness, power for living, peace, joy hope, contentment. Let’s use this gift to keep giving to God – love, thanks, worship, and life lived according to his will to his glory.

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